Monday, September 19, 2011

Genius; Fried Chicken, Waffles & The Brown Sugar Kitchen

Genius (n): 1) An exceptional natural capacity of intellect, especially as shown in creative and original work in science, art, music, etc. 2) A distinctive character or spirit as of a nation, period, or language.
“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.” ~Arthur Schopenhauer
In the sphere of food there are innumerable individual dishes that alone are spectacular; the effective creation of any of them is by definition a demonstration of talent. To take one or more of them and combine them in such a way that neither is diminished yet the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts is to, as Schopenhauer said, “hit a target no one else can see.” In short, a demonstration of genius.

Fried chicken and waffles is such a combination. Rarely have two such apparently discordant, yet individually awesome delicacies been combined to such mind-bending success. I recently experienced my first plate of this wonder of culinary aggregation at the Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, CA.

Brown Sugar Kitchen is the child of Tanya Holland, a classically trained chef with a strong soul food heritage. They combine traditional American Soul Food with Caribbean flavors and Tanya’s classical French culinary background. Brown Sugar is a small and lively space arranged in the fashion of a traditional diner, replete with counter seating, on Mandela Parkway in Oakland and boasts a staff of stunningly beautiful and charming African American women and supremely talented cooks. The menu fairly bursts with a collection of all that one would expect of an establishment touting itself as “Soul Food” with a number of surprises including Jerk Chicken, Pineapple Glazed Ribs and Smoked Mashed Yams.

On my visit last weekend I had a singular mission though, the Fried Chicken & Waffles. Fried Chicken is easy to make, but colossally difficult to make well. Additionally, there are a number of different styles to play with. I’ve found a number of versions that I dearly love, and cannot for the life of me select the best because they are all fantastic, and all so very different. Brown Sugar makes a Buttermilk Fried Chicken that is among the best I’ve had. Spicy, but not overly so with a light crust that serves as both method of keeping things moist and a legitimate desert offering as well…it’s that good. I’ve rarely had a fried chicken so tender and moist and the flavor was otherworldly particularly in concert with the flavors of the waffle.

The waffle is made primarily of a cornmeal batter, but I’m relatively certain that clouds and Class I narcotics are in there as well. The waffle is so light as to defy description. It’s substantial, yet not doughy, or heavy and absolutely melts in your mouth. The only possible reaction after the first bite is an overwhelming desire for another….the first hit is free…

The combination of the two, with the absolutely sublime brown sugar compound butter and apple cider syrup is among the best plates of food I have ever had. Brown Sugar didn’t invent the dish; Wells Supper Club in Harlem, NY claims to be the first eatery to serve it as a late night offering when it was “too late for dinner and too early for breakfast”. Regardless of it’s origin, Brown Sugar has it figured out and has put their unique stamp on it with a spectacular combination of two sublimely delicious individual dishes into a singularly wonderful whole.

In short, Genius. 

Brown Sugar Kitchen 
2534 Mandela Parkway Oakland, CA
510-839-SOUL (7685)

No comments:

Post a Comment